October 12, 2014: Haleem Pot

~by Paula Veloso Babadi

Over four years ago, my husband, daughter and I visited our Iranian family in Ahwaz, Teheran, Isfahan and Char-e Kord in the Zagros Mountains. It was made memorable by many occasions – my nephew’s wedding, a visit to Shustar and the tomb of the prophet Daniel, eating the last of summer’s apricots fresh from the mountain trees, wandering through the ancient bazaar in Isfahan, visiting my niece’s husband’s grain factory and the first oil well in the Middle East built in 1918 in Masjed- Soleyman (M.I.S).

But the most precious memories of our trip come from the time spent with a loving family, and the small moments talking in the kitchen, cleaning greens or “sabze”, eating meals at the “sofree” ( a large tablecloth placed on the floor around which very large families can all sit together), dancing and laughing, and playing cards. One of those moments happened just before dawn when my sister-in-law, Mahin let me go with her to get the family breakfast, one of my husband’s favorite meals, haleem. My daughter took a picture of us from behind, a giant woman in a chador (me) next to a petite woman (Mahin) swinging a small cauldron to be filled with “oatmeal”. I lost that picture, but it is forever etched in my mind. Mahin, like my sister-in-law, Goltala, are women filled with unselfish, sacrificial love for their families.

Creation gives us the same opportunity to be amazed everywhere on earth, and the realities of family love are present in every corner of the globe, made ever- clear to me in the carrying of the haleem pot.

Haleem Pot

~by Paula Veloso Babadi


Before light breaks the Middle Eastern skies,
before men and children rub sleep from their eyes,
before “machines” clutter dusty, pock-marked land,
she walks with black chador and haleem-pot in hand
toward the 8 x10 storefront where he has been stirring wheat,
barley and lamb broth through the night
to create a thick paste – porridge of rich and poor alike.
His arms are strong, steeled from beating the grain
with his oar-like paddle again and again.
.
She has no servant to fetch the precious breakfast load.
Her hands are as strong as his arms;
fingers forged from bearing heavy steaming gold.
She is stronger than the round metal casing of her pot
and for a few coins, she fills her family’s bellies;
her heart filled with love is their lot.
She is not so different from the Proverbs 31 woman.
.
On the way home,
we are shadowed silhouettes against the dawn –
one giant cloaked figure beside her tiny form.
I take the metal cauldron to relieve her burden.
It is heavy with a weight I never had to bear
and in my carrying, her sacrifice becomes clear.
.
She presents the gruel
with a tray of cinnamon, sugar and oil.
We scoop it to our mouths with hot, flat bread.
Everyone loves this meal.
Everyone loves this woman.
For a moment, I despise instant oatmeal
and Mahin doesn’t even realize what she gave me
in the early morning with her haleem pot.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Paula Veloso Babadi has worked in the health care industry for over thirty five years, but her true passion is poetry. She is a member of the St. John’s Chapter of the national Catholic Writers Guild and a regular contributor to the St. Joseph’sReflections Newspaper. Growing up in England and Pensacola with her Filipino and British parents and marrying into her Iranian family, she now lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, daughter and nearby three grown sons and grandchildren.

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